OAKLAND (KCBS) – Bay Area Rapid Transit and its unions have returned to the bargaining table, trying to beat an early August deadline before the contract for workers expires.

But BART employees have warned that if they strike again, they’re prepared to stay off the job for a lot longer than they did earlier this month. Employees walked off the job for five days, causing headaches for commuters in the Bay Area.

If a strike does happen, BART officials said they wouldn’t be able to train replacement train operators for months due to the transit agency’s current contract with drivers.

Right now, BART only has 10 qualified drivers who are non-union. If they wanted to add more, potential drivers would have to take a 15-week safety course. The special training was a mandate under the union’s last contract, which was signed after a labor dispute in 1979. And under the current contract, people are barred from taking the course as long as BART union operators are on the job, meaning the transit agency wouldn’t be able to start training until a labor strike actually occurs.

BART won’t answer the question of whether hiring retired operators is a possibility if a strike were to occur.

The latest on a possible resolution is that the sides seem to be as far apart as ever. The current contract expires on August 4.

You can hear Phil Matier’s comments Monday through Friday at 7:50am and 5:50pm on KCBS All News 740AM and 106.9FM.

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